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Feedback: Broadcast breakdown

Friday 15 June 2012, 12:34

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Roger Bolton presents Feedback on BBC Radio 4

How can I express to you what it feels like to be a producer whose live outside broadcast has just broken down? It is the stuff of nightmares.

You feel utterly helpless and sick in the pit of your stomach. You look beseechingly at your engineers, desperate for reassurance that the interruption won't be long. Then you try and work out what you will say when you get back on air, if you get back on air. What will you have to cut in order to get out on time at the end of the programme.?

I remember an edition of Panorama in which a young David Dimbleby was left talking to camera with nothing to say for what seemed a lifetime. Every time he though salvation was in sight and was told to got to another programme source - there was nothing there , no film, no video tape, no OB, nothing.

Each time the studio director cut back to an increasingly bemused looking Dimbleby, who was reduced to picking up a phone and pretending he was having a conversation with his producer, while a pink glow gradually enveloped his cheeks. I also remember a Thames Television news magazine programme presented by Bill Grundy.

After the opening titles ran and the vision mixer cut to Grundy he grimly explained that he had nothing to say. No film or vt reports were ready, no guest was in the studio. Then there was the noise of doors opening and closing and someone running across the studio floor . The camera cut to a guest climbing onto a seat and fiddling with a microphone. Grundy allowed him to settle and then asked his first question.

The guest opened his mouth, but no sound emerged, except for that of air being gulped by someone who had just run up two flights of stairs and was literally speechless. So when I heard that the transmission of Radio 3's Choral Evensong had been interrupted twice in two weeks I was quite sympathetic.

But there was another breakdown on the 23rd May and a fourth on the 30th May.

That made 4 breakdowns in 5 weeks.

Surely there must be a common thread?

Some fans of the programme believe there is and they wonder if the breakdowns are the result of cutbacks in back up facilities.

In Feedback this week I put their concerns to the Head of Radio for BBC Religion, Christine Morgan.

By the way, there are rumours that the name of the new DG will be released next week. If it is, do let me know what you want to know about him or her and we'll try and get the appointee or the Chairman who appointed him/her onto the programme as soon as possible.

After all, you pay the Director General's salary.

Roger Bolton

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 2.

    Four breakdowns in five weeks. How many breakdowns would it take to convince Christians that their god has decided that the rest of us could do with a well-earned break!

    Does anyone know how many listeners tune in to Choral Evensong? And of the several dozen who do, how many do not know someone personally who is taking part. If ever a programme was needing the bullet it is Choral Evensong. I'm no lover of the Sex Pistols, but if I had to choose between the two...!

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    Comment number 3.

    If I recall correctly, when asked to say if these kind of problems would continue, the producer in question said that she wouldn't say that. However, declining to speak that sentence is not the same as giving an assurance of a problem-free future...

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    Comment number 4.

    Also, because I can't think of anywhere else this can be discussed, what is point of 'Don't Log Off'? Leaving aside the irritating doopy doop music, this is supposed to be about people on the internet, and it's just people talking on phones, just like 'Don't Hang Up'. Radio can't do the internet, BBC radio don't even *want* to do the internet, and there is no link on the 'DLO' page for cyber feedback, so isn't it just adding insult to injury? Did we really lose 'Home Planet' for this?

    I can't believe this is the second series...

 
 

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